Thursday, November 11, 2010

Exterminating the Koobface Worm

 

Watch out for a fresh round of the Koobface worm on Facebook. You'll get a message from someone you trust that offers a link to a youtube video. It sends you to a fake youtube site.

A popup opens saying you need the latest version of Flash Player to play the video. DO NOT CLICK ON THE FAKE FLASH PLAYER LINK.

Do that and you won't get infected.  If you did click on the fake Flash Player link, you have the Koobface worm.  Here's how I cleaned it off my computer.  You can also watch a Youtube video that tells how to get rid of it.  I got to it done quickly before it brutalized my system, so all I had to do was run Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware software.  If you have had it for a while, watch the video for some extra steps you might need to take.

I cleaned it off my computer within hours. If it stays any time at all, it will harvest your name and some private info. If it stays long enough it will harvest your passwords and send it to the hacker.

Here's what I did. 


  1. Go to  http://support.kaspersky.com/viruses/solutions?qid=208280684  and download the TDSS Rootkit removal tool.  It comes as a zip file.  Save it on your desktop.  Extract the file to your desktop.  Don't put the TDSS Killer program in a folder on the desktop.  Just extract it to the desktop. 
  2. Run the tool, clean and repair following the prompts and then restart the computer.
  3. Go to http://www.norman.com/support/support_tools/58732/en and download the Norman Malware Cleanter and place it on your desktop.
  4. Run Norman Malware Cleaner and clean any installed malware from your computer.  Follow the cleaning prompts and then reboot your computer.
  5. Go to CNET.com 
  6. Download "Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware program (it's free). 
  7. Install Anti-Malware, check for and download the latest updates and run the full scan. It will take a while. When it's done it will list the infected files. 
  8. Leave the boxes checked and click on the repair link. 
  9. Now go away for 15-20 minutes (don't mess with it). The program may appear to freeze. Just cut off the power and reboot when you come back. 
  10. Rerun the Anti-Malware software. A scan should show you free of the worm. Check the last log file and it will show what was found and deleted.
  11. First time you open your Firefox browser, don't go anywhere.  Click on Tools > Options > Advanced > Network > Settings.  Then change the settings to "No Proxy" and you should be okay. This worm hijacks the proxy settings on your computer.  If you don't do this, it will still redirect you to a bogus website and make your life miserable.
  12. The first time you open your I.E. browser, click on Tools > Internet Options > Connections > LAN settings.  Uncheck the "Proxy Server" option and check "Automatically check settings".  I had to close I.E. the first time because it wouldn't let me select Internet Options, but the second time I opened it, I was able to fix it.  Don't know why - possibly because I hadn't used IE since I contracted the Koobface worm.  (Doesn't that sound just like something you'd pick up on a trip to a bordertown restaurant). 
Anyway, this ought to get you back up and running and keep your system clean. 

IF IT DOES NOT, GO GET ON THE "MY BLEEPING COMPUTER" WEBSITE AND SIGN UP FOR AN ACCOUNT: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/

They have some very knowledgeable folk on the site who can talk you through a thorough cleanup. You may encounter recommendations to use a program called "Combofix" on other websites. Do not use this program without getting help from the Bleeping Computer folks. It fools around with key parts of the computer's operating system and if you don't know what you are doing, you can get really screwed up.

You'll need to set up an Account on "Bleeping Computer" and post a topic for your specific problem. There is a list of preparatory steps you'll have to take to get ready and the process may take a little time to work through. It's either that or pay some computer tech several hundred bucks to wipe and rebuild your hard drive and you still may lose data in the process.

One more note. If you try to search "Koobface Worm Removal" you will get links to a lot of sites that will actually give you the Koobface worm. Make sure you have a tool like "Web of Trust" or your anti-malware software running to warn you about untrustworthy sites. Try the above process and "Bleeping Computer" before you go stepping into that minefield. Doing a Google search to correct a "google redirect" virus that you have on your computer is asking for a trip through the looking glass.

One more note.  If you try to search "Koobface Worm Removal" you will get links to a lot of sites that will actually give you the Koobface worm.  Try the above process before you go stepping into that minefield.

Hackers who do this are thugs and bullies and no better than the punks who used to give them wedgies back in junior high school. I personally think we should catch them and hang them publicly in the town square -- by the back of their Fruit-of-the-Looms! Just let 'em dangle there for a while! Then we should put them all on a deserted island somewhere well north of the tropics where it gets really cold in the winter. Leave them no computers or electricity - nothing but farm tools and bags of turnip seeds.

Good luck.

Tom

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Great Vegetarian Barbecue Dish

Eating vegetarian meat substitutes is a great way to reduce the cholesterol in your diet dramatically and many of the products produced by such companies as Worthington Foods, Loma Linda Foods and Boca offer vegetarian alternatives for a variety of meat products.  I'm in the hospital with a kidney stone and because of the surgery I had yesterday, I haven't eaten much all weekend and I'm starving.  When I get really hungry I crave a really unique vegetarian meal that is my wife's specialty.

Miss Sheila trained under two of the finest cooks I ever knew of--my grandmother and hers. She can hold her own with either of them and, although I would never have told either of them, she outdoes them on many things. Her original idea for barbecue Tender-bits(TM) is everybody's favorite for celebratory meals in the King household. Since Sheila has made me promise to outlive her, I made her teach me how to make her signature dish.

Barbecue Tender-Bits
Original Recipe by Sheila King

- Ingredients -
  1. 2 Cans Loma Linda Tender-bits
  2. Flour
  3. Seasoned Salt
  4. Oil
  5. Bulls-Eye or KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce
- Instructions -
  1. Remove the top and bottom from both Tender-bit cans and press from the can. Drain the Tender-bits and halve or quarter each "bit" as you prefer.  I like mine larger, Sheila likes 'em quartered.
  2. Put a quarter to half cup of flour in a large mixing bowl and toss in the Tender-bits.  Dust them thoroughly and lightly season with seasoned salt.
  3. Just cover the bottom of a large frying pan or electric skillet in canola oil and heat..
  4. Place floured "bits" into the oil and cook stirring twice till the outsides are crisp and turn golden brown.
  5. Pour a bottle of barbecue sauce over the Tender-Bits and remaining oil.  With the flour that got into the oil along with the Tender-bits, the barbecue sauce will make a delicious gravy that will cover the vege-meat.  When the gravy begins to bubble, turn the heat down to keep the dish warm while you cook the rest of the meal.  This allows the Tender-bits to marinate in the barbecue gravy.
Setting:  These are our favorite side dishes to go along with Barbecue Tender-Bits

  1. Mama's Southern Mashed Potatoes with a little garlic, butter and cream cheese
  2. Broccoli with a bit of melted Velveeta Cheese
  3. Salad finely chopped with Ranch Dressing
  4. Honeymama's Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls (so good they don't even need butter)
  5. Peach Cobbler with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
Where to Buy:
Barbecued Tender-Bits as God intended
This meal illustrates why all vegetarians are not emaciated skeletons. Many of us are quite substantial individuals.  Tender-Bits are a vegan meat substitute (for what meat I am not sure).  They work really well in Chinese dishes, however, though they aren't much like chicken.  They make a nice neutral meat-like garnish for spicy dishes and tangy sauces.  You can order them by the case on Amazon.com, from Loma Linda or or any regional Seventh Day Adventist book store or vegetarian food store (found in most Adventist college towns). 

Next time we make up a batch, I'll take a picture and post it here.  Till then, bon appetit.

* Did and done. As you can see even just half a can makes up a nice sized batch for two.  When we have the kids and their families over, Sheila makes two or three cans and when it's all done, there are never any leftovers.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Building the Box Dulcimer

Overview:
The handmade dulcimer is a simple first-time “real” musical instrument project. A dulcimer is a long, fretted instrument, designed to be strummed while sitting in your lap or on a table or stand. you play the tune with a small wooden stick pressed against the main string and slid up and down the frets while you strum. You can also pluck and chord the dulcimer with your fingers. Its simple shape and sit-on-top fretboard is easier to build than an instrument with a neck-mounted fretboard like a guitar. The version presented here is a box dulcimer, built in a rectangular shape. It's much easier to build since you don't have to warp the edges to match the traditional hourglass or teardrop shape. If you're a beginner to instrument-making this is your dulcimer.

Materials:
  • 3 panels of instrument wood, 1/8’ thick by 18” by 23″
  • 1 piece hardwood 1 ¼ inch by 1 1/2 inch by ¼ inch
  • 1 piece hardwood, 1 ¼ inch by 2 5/8 inch by 3/8 inch
  • 1 piece hardwood, 1/8 inch by 1 ¼ inch by ¼ inch
  • Coping Saw
  • Hole saw (drill attachment)
  • Sabre Saw/Band Saw
  • Wood Glue
  • Drill and drill bit set
  • 1 Very dense hardwood board, 1 ½ inch by ¾ inch by 28 inches for the fretboard
  • 4 small screws, 1/8 inch by ¼ inch long
  • Set of 4 dulcimer strings
  • 4 single peg guitar machine heads (from music store)
  • Box of extra large paper clips
  • Bastard file
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter Square
  • Electrical tape
  • Wood stain and Varnish
  • Fine bristle paintbrush
  • Paint thinner

Step 1
Cut two pieces of 1/8 inch panel into a rectangle 6-inch wide by 23 inches long. These are the top and bottom pieces. Cut 4 one-inch diameter sound holes in the top piece. They can be any shape, but should be at least a half-inch from the edge and about 7 ½ inches from the heel and front of the top piece. Cut with a hole saw and sand the edges all around on the top.

Step 2
Cut two more strips of 1/8 inch panel 1 ½ inches wide by 23 inches long to make the sides of the rectangular box. Cut two strips of 1/8 panel also 1 ½ inches by 5 ¾ inches for the front and heel ends of the box. Assemble the box by gluing the heel and front strips and the side strips between the top and back panels to create a rectangular box. Set some books on top of the box till the glue cures and sets.

Step 3

This is the full length fretboard described here.
 Take the hardwood fingerboard. Measure five inches from one end. Mark the end of the fingerboard ½ inches from the bottom and draw a line on the side of the fretboard from the mark on the neck to where the half inch line touches the edge of the end of the fingerboard. Trim the end of the fingerboard so it slopes downward from the 5 inch mark to the end of the fretboard. This is where you will install the tuning pegs. This is the headstock.

The headstock can also be extended past the end of the box as shown below to allow you to install standard banjo or guitar tuning pegs. The fretboard wood is 28 inches to allow you to construct a proper headstock if you want.  You can also cut off the fretboard to the length of the box and attach tuning pegs at the end as shown in the short fretboard below.  I like the longer version with banjo or individual machine heads.  They seem to hold their tune better than friction pegs.  Simply drill holes in the headstock for the four tuning pegs you'll need and screw them in place as shown.  If you elect to build a three string dulcimer, you only have to install three tuning pegs.  I prefer the doubled melody string with two single drones.

Step 4
This dulcimer has an extended carved headstock
Measure 1 ½ inches form the heel of the fingerboard. Measure 4 more inches. Use the band saw to cut a shallow 3/8 inch deep dip in the fretboard for a strumming hole.

Step 5
Cut two bridges from hardwood. The one for the heel should be 1 ½ inches wide, 1 ¼ inches tall by ¼ inches thick. The second is 1/8 inch thick by 1 ½ inch by ¼ inch tall.


This is an alternate short fretboard with a gap for strumming
 Step 6
Glue the fretboard to the top of the box in the center so that the heel end is 1 ¼ inches from the heel of the box. You will have to calculate where to glue the bridge before you mark and set it.  The fret calculator link in step 9 should help you figure out how far apart to place the bridge at the lower end.  The nut as the bridge-like structure at the top of the fretboard by the tuner machine heads is properly called is glued to the top of the fretboard and the frets are calculated from the nut (step 9). When the bridge has set (24 hours) glue the heel bridge into place at the end of the box. When that sets, glue the 1 ¼ inch by 2 5/8 inch by 3/8 inch hardwood square to the heel of the fretboard over the bridge and end of the box to create a heel plate for attaching the string holder screws. Cut a 1/8 inch wide groove 1/8 inch deep into the bridge below the headstock where the fingerboard begins to taper toward the end. Glue the second bridge into the groove and let it set.

Step 7
Drill two 1/16 inch holes ¼ inch in diagonally each of the top corner so of the hardwood heel plate. Drill two more pilot holes ½ inch diagonally toward the center from the lower corners of the heel plate. Screw the four small screws into the 4 holes with enough of the heads protruding to wrap a string loop around.

Step 8
Stain and varnish the box end of the instrument and peg head and allow finish to cure and set. Drill four holes in the head stock the size called for in the instructions for setting the guitar tuner pegs. Set the pegs with the keys down and the wire holes sticking up.

Step 9
Calculate the spacing of the frets. You can use an on-line fret calculator or buy a fret spacing guide from several different sources. To determine where to mark the spaces for the frets on the fretboard, measure from the top bridge down the fretboard toward the heel. Cut a groove just narrower than the width of the paper clip wire you are using along each fret mark. Straighten the paper clip wire and tap the wires into the fret grooves, so that the top of the wire extends slightly above the fretboard where each fret was marked. Clip off and file smooth the ends of the fret wires. You can also buy fret wire from a musical supply store to use instead of paper clips.

Step 10
Cut a set of shallow grooves in the top of the bridges. Measure the spacing with the dulcimer peg head to your left if you are right handed or vice versa if you are left. Mark the first groove at ¼ inch, the second at 3/8 inches. This will pair the first or melody string. The middle drone string groove should be marked at ¾ inch and the bass drone string at 1/1/4 inch from the bottom of the bridge.


Step 11
Loop the strings over the screws on the heel of the fretboard. Run the strings through the grooves on the bridges and affix them to the tuning pegs. Tighten and tune the strings to the tuning you’ve chosen to play. There are many different tunings. Standard D tuning for the Dulcimer is: 1st String (bass) D, 2nd String (middle) A, 3rd String and 4th String (melody strings) A.


Summary:
This type of dulcimer is also called a "church" dulcimer. If you'd rather buy one, check out the Mountain Made Music Website where they have a pretty little church dulcimer for about $250.  You can also buy kits and printed plans for various types of dulcimers.  I borrowed pics from several box dulcimer makers to show what one looks like. As soon as I've built my dulcimer, I'll put step by step construction pictures on here.

Links:

Mountain Made Dulcimer
http://www.mountainmademusic.com/default.asp

Osborne A Telier: Building a Mountain Dulcimer
http://www.osborneatelier.com/Dulcimer_01.htm

Folkcraft Instruments: Mountain Dulcimer Building Supplies - Plans And Instructions
http://www.folkcraft.com/p_1482_cat_7000321_hdr_7000336_sort_cattitle_pg_1.html

Quazen: How to Make a Dulcimer
http://quazen.com/recreation/crafts/how-to-make-a-dulcimer/

Howdy Ya Dewit: How to Tell if A Piece of Wood Will Make a Good Musical Instrument
http://howdyyadewit.blogspot.com/2010/08/how-to-tell-if-piece-of-wood-will-make.html

Doug Sparling: Fret Calculator
http://www.dougsparling.com/software/fretcalc/index.php

.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Organize Your Coupon Book

Coupon Book Labels for the Nonfanatic

The wife recycled a picture album yesterday to use as a keeper book for her grocery store coupons.  With her disability keeping her out of the workforce, she's decided to at least take a stab at using coupons to cut our grocery bill.  The Queen of Organization came to me to print some labels for her coupon book.  She brought me a list of labels, one for each page in the book (22 pages total - 11 front and back).

She wondered if I could "...make them up on the computer." Once you earn a reputation for being able to do "anything on the computer", the family sends you all sorts of clerical projects.  Since I'm very busy, I did a quick and dirty job of it with Microsoft Word.

Now, I could have gone more elaborate.  Instead I went with a quick MS Word mailmerge.  I may come back to the project later if she sticks with the coupon thing long term and I'll post the prettified version in its place.  She wants me to fix up a larger ex-dayplanner, but I'll have to buy the plastic storage pages at Office Depot, so that will have to wait.  When we get it, I'll do the whole thing up on PageMaker with borders and little pictures and  make it really nice.


For now, though I'm posting the printable label page as a PDF file here Click on the link and the page will open in Adobe Reader.  You can also click on the title of this article and it'll do the same thing.  Then simply insert an AVERY 8460 address label or compatible generic label sheet into your printer and print it.  Then it's just peel and stick.  It leaves a few blank ones if you collect coupons for auto parts or sporting goods or something else we forgot.

Have fun with the coupons. I once saved about $40 on groceries with just an hour invested in coupon hunting, so it does work pretty well.  Unfortunately, I have the attention-span of a jackrabbit on a date, so I'm leaving coupon hunting to the wife.  She's good at stuff that requires organization.

Monday, August 09, 2010

How to Tell if a Piece of Wood Will Make a Good Musical Instrument - Part Dieux

How To Do a Tap Test

Wood that your are looking at for a musical instrument can come in a wide range of colors, grain patterns and hardnesses as we saw in my previous post. Depending on the kind of instrument you’re building, you may choose a wood that produces a bright and brassy tone, a soft and mellow tone or a deep, rich tone. The dulcimer at the right was made with a less expensive wood that absorbs some of the sound and gives it a thin, soft tone than doesn't carry well. It's pretty, but nowhere near performance grade sound-wise. Even if you are not an expert, though, and this is your first attempt at building an instrument, you can get an idea of the sound quality of the wood you select for your musical instrument before you start cutting it up. Here's how....

1. Hold up the piece of wood your will be using by pinching the edge of the wood about a fifth of the way down its length. Don't hold it by the top or from the center. Harmonics for a musical chord are divided into what are called fifths.  Turns out the best place to hold something that you want to tap on to hear its true tone, it's a fifth of the way from either end.

2. Put your ear next to the edge to hear the tone of the piece of wood best. You can hear the tone much better from the edge than if you put your ear at the face.  At the face, the vibrations from the wood get muddled.I like to squint one eye real tight when I'm sounding the wood. It makes the wood salesman think I know what I'm doing and he'll bring me better wood and give me discounts and stuff -- that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


3. Give the wood a sharp tap with your knuckle or a metal object. Try both to get an idea of the two types of sounds generated by a padded tapper like your finger and a hard tapper like something metal or wood. Find a place where you can tap the piece of wood so that it doesn’t wobble when you hit it. When you find that sweet spot, tap just above and below that spot to listen to the difference between the sounds.

 4. The wood will have a pitch to it. It may be pitched higher, mid-range or lower more bass tone. There will be a ringing aftertone that persists after the initial tap dies away. This sound will tell you a lot about what the instrument will sound like. Choose a higher pitched piece of wood if you are looking for a brassier sound for an instrument like a bluegrass banjo or mandolin. If you’re building a larger instrument or one from which you need a deeper tone (a viola or bass for instance), you’ll want a wood that resonates with a deeper tone when you thump it.  If you're really having trouble hearing the difference in tone, you should try skrinching up your mouth on one side. The wood salesman will run screaming in terror to his manager.  Only then will they bring out their secret stash of Madagascar Rosewood, retrieved from the hold of the HMS Dingleberry, which sank in the Thames river in 1832 with a cargo of Madagascar lumber, where it soaked for 180 years.  Recovered in 1994, the freshwater-soaked rosewood sheets were dried in the humidity controlled drying sheds of Fishgill, Thimblequack and Dimbulb, Ltd., wood merchants to the greatest luthiers in the world, then shipped to your local wood merchant where they can be had for the ridiculously low price of $9.99 per sheet.  And yes, "skrinching" is a real world. I made it up, but since you understood the word meant "making a face like the one in the picture above", communication, therefore, took place, which is what you use words for.  Call Webster.  Tell him to stop the presses. We've got a new one for the "S's".

5. Consider the shape of the instrument you are designing. A teardrop shaped dulcimer, for instance, should have a balanced, mellow sort of tone. You’ll need wood for the back, where the sound resonates, that has a higher baritone or tenor tone and a pronounced ringing aftertone. If you use a rich bass/baritone piece of redwood or something similar for the top, you can create a harmonic interplay between the two pieces, especially if you “tune” the pieces beforehand by selecting two pieces of wood that make a nice harmony when tapped. Pair a tenor with a baritone harmonic or baritone and bass for throatier instruments.  An hourglass shaped dulcimer produces a deeper, but more crisp sound. Pair a baritone back with a tenor top and you get that full sound while preserving the crispness of the string sounds in the aftertone.

It takes something of an ear for music to do this effectively. If you’re like me and have something of a tin ear, get your wife who has perfect pitch to help you do the selection. You’ll be glad for that extra edge that someone with good pitch brings to the process. The beauty of hand made instruments is that you get to select the pieces of wood and mechanical parts that you want. A musical instrument, lovingly made is a joy to play.

Have fun making your dulcimer.  If you want to make one that looks really odd, hang on a couple of days.  I'll be posting a rectangular dulcimer design that's super easy to build and really unusual. How it sounds will depend entirely upon the wood you use, but as big as the box is, you should get guitar level volume from the thing.  I'm assuming you'd want to build this one out of the harder stuff.  Just guessing.  Haven't found the right wood to build my own version yet.  I'm thinking of building an octagon shaped dulcimer and painting a stop sign on the back. 

Tom

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Selecting Wood for Your Musical Instrument Project

Thinking of finally putting together that dulcimer you bought the plans for 10 years ago and never got around to building. A crashing economy and the federal unemployment insurance extension bill give you some time on your hands and you’ve cleaned out the shop three times already? One of the first things you’ll need to do is choose the wood you want to use for that lute, guitar, banjo, dulcimer or violin you’re going to tackle.
 
First lets look at what makes a good wood for a musical instrument.  Tomorrow, we'll talk about how to do a tap test for tone quality.

Age:

  • The best wood for instruments is something that’s been sitting quietly somewhere for a hundred years or so, preferably at the bottom of a freshwater river or lake. Some of the best instrument wood around these days is being fished out of the rivers of the great north woods where loggers once floated their harvest to the sawmills. Along the way, some of the denser hardwood logs absorbed enough water to sink. And there they have been sitting for the past hundred to a hundred and fifty years curing. Brave scuba divers have been diving down into the tangled wreckage on the bottom of those rivers and fishing out these monsters and carrying them to special mills where they are dried out and carefully cut up into pieces suitable for the luthier’s art. People who make their living playing music pay top dollar for instruments made from this lumber. Another source for wood is old buildings that were built with whatever would was handy including some very expensive (nowadays anyway) lumber. Some farmer’s used to clear out their old nonproductive fruit trees and build chicken coops, barns and wooden fences from the lumber. Antique furniture, too damaged to restore, can provide you with well-aged instrument grade pieces of wood if you keep an eye out for them at flea markets and garage sales. A friend who is a luthier once bought some wood on a trip to Germany. It came out of a shed behind what she recognized as an old luthier’s shop, now abandoned. The wood had been cut from virgin timber in the Black Forest nearly 125 years before. She made a killing fashioning the wood into violins using an Anton Stradivarius pattern she’d wheedled out of a fellow luthier (considerable eye-batting and sweet talk was involved). Anyway, be imaginative. That ancient rock maple credenza of your Aunt Sophie’s might just have a couple of banjo necks in it. You never know.

Types of wood:
  • Five common types of wood for handmade and professional musical instruments include maple, rosewood, spruce, mahogany and basswood. Soft maple is prized for its ability to bend, making curved surfaces easier to form and is used in the bodies of guitars, dulcimers and violins. Harder maples are frequently used as necks where rigidity is essential. Spuce is used a lot in guitar tops and orchestral stringed instruments because of it’s tone. Spruce is a hardwood that has a soft core. This duality makes it a wonderful soundboard, but means you have to put a very hard lacquer finish on it to protect it from damage. Electric guitar makers like dense hard woods like mahogany for solid body guitars because its otherwise dark sound reproduces electrically amplified tones particularly well. Though beautiful, mahogany is seldom used in acoustic instruments save possibly in the fretboard where a denser, more durable wood might be important. Basswood isn’t very pretty despite its fine tonal qualities and is used in instruments that are going to be painted or in drums where a consistent frequency throughout the length of a board is important. Rosewood is also popular for use with fingerboards. Like mahogany it has a very dark tone and if used in the body of an acoustic instrument tends to dampen the sound.
All other types of wood are likely to have one or a combination of the characteristics of the 5 common types above. These basic characteristics include:

1. Strength and durability – Dense hardwoods are good for necks and headstocks, but tend to dampen the sound if used in the body of an acoustic instruments. Electric solid body instruments, however, tend to sound better with heavy hardwood bodies.
2. Flexibility – These woods are used in the sides or in arched backs and tops where the shape of the box creates some special tonal quality the instrument maker is looking for.
3. Tonal Quality—Many woods have, within themselves, special tonal qualities that the instrument maker is looking for that comes from the resonance of the wood itself. Some of these woods are like basswood and don’t have very pretty grain, but with a nice coat of paint, serve well, especially in lower cost instruments.
4.  Beauty--If you can find a wood with an attractive grain pattern, you'll have an instrument that not only sounds beautiful, but looks beautiful as well. 

This list is only a partial list of some of the woods being used by instrument makers worldwide to create beautiful sounding musical instruments ranging from banjos and cellos to tongue drums and bodhrans. The list is broken down by where in the world you can find the wood. This LINK is to a page that shows pictures of the grain pattern of many of these woods.

Argentina and Chile: Angico, Black Mesquite, Rauli Beech
Tropical Africa: Iroko or Afrormosia (African Teak), Panga Panga, Zebrawood, Wenge, Lovoa (African Walnut), Mansonia, Moabi (African Pearwood)
East Africa: Blackwood, Muhuhu, Tambootie
North Africa: Thuya Burl
Central Africa: Wenge
South Africa: African Boxwood, Leadwood, Mopane, Pau Rosa, Pink Ivory, Tambootie
West Africa: Afrormosia, Aniegre, Avodire, Beli, Benge, Bubinga, Doussie, Gaboon Ebony, Ekki, Emeri, Limba, Black Limba, African Mahogany, Makore (African Cherry), Movingui (Nigerian Satinwood), Obeche’, Padouk, Sapele, Shedua,
Asia: Camphorwood, Lebanon Cedar, Merbau, Paulownia, Larch
Southeast Asia: Afzelia Burl, Amboyna Burl, Kwila, Maidou Burl, Narra (New Guinea Rosewood), Thai Rosewood,
East Australia: Blackbean
Australia: Banksia, Bimblebox Burl, Australian Blackwood, Coolibah Burl, Australian Cypress, Jarrah Burl (Eucalyptus), Mulga (Spearwood), Raspberry Jamwood, Sandalwood, Blackbean, Fishtail Oak,
Brazil: Bloodwood, Castella Boxwood, Brauna, Canarywood (Putumuju), Friejo, Gombeira, Imbuya (Brazilian Walnut), Ipe, Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry), Brazilian Kingwood, Lacewood, Marblewood, Partridgewood, Pequia Amarello, Pernambuco (Brazilwood), Peroba Rosa, Brazilian Rosewood, Brazilian Satinwood, Sucupira, Tulipwood, Andiroba (Brazilian Mahogany), Brauna, Gombiera, Pau Ferro, Sucupira
Burma: East Indian Laurel, Burmese Rosewood
Carribean: Blue Mahoe
Celebes Islands: Macassar Ebony
Ecuador: Balsa
England: European Boxwood, English Elm, English Oak, European Walnut, Yew, Bog Oak
Europe: European Boxwood, Lebanon Cedar, European Chestnut, Hornbeam, English Oak, Pearwood, European Plum, European Walnut
Fiji Islands: Yaka
Germany: Acacia, European Beech, Pearwood
Guyana: Kabukalli, Snakewood, Tatabu, Shibadan
Hawaii: Koa, Monkeypod Wood
India and Sri Lanka: Ceylon Ebony, Kokko (E. Indian Walnut), E. Indian Laurel, Palmwood, E. Indian Rosewood, Sisoo Rosewood, Sandalwood, Ceylon Satinwood,
Madagascar: Madagascar Ebony, Madagascar Rosewood,
Maylasia: Jelutong, Damar Minyak
Mediterranean: Spanish Olive (Olivewood),
Mexico and Central America: Balsamo, Bocote, Chakte-kok, Chakte-viga, Cocobolo, Brown Ebony, Fustic, Goncalo Alves, Granadillo, Jabin, Katalox, Mexican Kingwood, Lemonwood, Lignum Vitae, Honduras Mahogany, Mesquite, Prima Vera (Blond Mahogany), Purpleheart (Amaranth), Guatemalan Rosewood, Honduras Rosewood, Mexican Rosewood, Tzalam, Tropical Walnut, , Ziricote, Nargusta
Myanmar: Teak
Polynesia and Pacific Islands: Monkeypod, New Guinea Red Cedar, New Guinea Rosewood, Black Palm
South America: Alerce (Patagonian Cypress) Beefwood or Bulletwood, Spanish Cedar, Fustic, Goncalo Alves, Lemonwood, Honduras Mahogany, Pau Marfim (Ivorywood), Prima Vera (Blond Mahogany), Purpleheart (Amaranth), Rauli (Chilean Beech), Amazon Rosewood, Santos Rosewood, Verawood, Tropical Walnut, Cocobolo (Granadilla), Kabukalli, Nargusta
Spain: Mediterranean Briar, Mesquite,
Surinam: Marblewood
Sweden: Masur Birch
Tasmania: Tasmanian Myrtle, Huon Pine
United States: Buckeye Burl, Mesquite, Red Oak (Spanish Oak), Osage Orange, Larch
Northeastern USA: Basswood, Eastern Hard Maple (Sugar Maple), Eastern Soft Maple
Northwestern USA: Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Port Orford Cedar, Western Soft Maple, Myrtlewood, Oregon Oak, Sitka Spruce, Pacific Yew
Eastern USA: American Ash, American Cherry, American Holly, Eastern White Oak, Eastern Black Walnut
Midwest USA: Eastern Black Walnut
Southern USA: Swamp Ash, Eastern Red cedar
Southwestern USA: Desert Ironwood,
Western USA: Red Alder, Incense Cedar, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Madrone, Mountain Mahogany, Myrtlewood, California Nutmeg, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, Redwood, Englemann Spruce, Claro Walnut
Venezuela: Zapatero (Maracaibo Boxwood)
West Indies: Zapatero Boxwood, Cocuswood

Friday, August 06, 2010

Cheap and Easy Cartop Canoe Carrier

Have you got a canoe you want to carry to the lake and only have your sedan to carry it on.  No roof rack? So how do you haul your canoe without buying an expensive strap on canoe rack?  Easy Peasy.  Everything you need is down at Wal-Mart and won't cost more than twenty or thirty bucks.

Here's what you need to pick up:

Three Styrofoam swim "noodles" - the kind with the hole in the middle as shown at the right.

Two racheting tie-down Straps

Here are the tools you need:

1 hunting knife or sharp butcher knife
Tape measure


What else you need:

Canoe with a rope loop at the the bow and stern
Your car

Here's how to do this:

This canoe "rack" doesn't attach to your car, won't scratch your paint and hooks up in less than ten minutes.

Here are the steps:

1. Lay the canoe on the grass right side up as shown.

2. Measure the length of the gunwales (the edge of the canoe) between the thwarts.

3. Split the two Styrofoam noodles lengthwise down one side so that you cut halfway through the noodle as shown at the right.

4. Cut the noodles to fit between the stern thwart and the center thwart and between the bow thwart and the center thwart.

5.  Spread the noodle sections apart and slip them over the the gunwales.  This creates a secure Styrofoam padding on the gunwales where they will touch the roof of the car.  Wipe the noodles to make sure there is no sand on them.  Attached, the noodles look like the picture below.









6. Clean any dirt off the top of the car. Sand between the noodles and the cartop can scratch the finish.

7.  Flip the canoe over and set it on top of the car with the bow and stern extending equally over the front and back of the car (not the passenger cabin).











8.  Run the ratchet tie-down through the rope loop and hook the end hooks under the bumper in front. There are two towing loops under the frame in front that are used in the manufacturing process. They are perfect for attaching the ratchet straps.

9.  Tighten the straps lightly Do the same thing in the back of the car with the second ratchet strap as shown at the right.





10.  Split the third Styrofoam noodle and wrap it around the ratchet straps anywhere it touches the car hood or bumpers to protect the car.

11. Tighten each ratchet strap a little at a time till the canoe is pulled down tight on top of the car's cabin and the canoe rides level.
    You don't need a center strap. The 4 point tie-down you've created is very secure and gives you pressure from 4 direction that keeps the canoe from sliding.

    Now wasn't that fun (and cheap).   See you on the river.

    Tom King

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Building a Garden Bench

    This simple design allows you to place an attractive garden bench on any spot you choose, even one with some slope to it.  We used to build this type of bench in a natural sloping hollow or bowl shaped terrain to create a natural outdoor chapel or amphitheater when I worked at camp.  These aren't hard to build and are very sturdy and durable, especially if you use pressure treated lumber.

    What You Need for a 10 foot long bench:

    Three 3-foot long 4 x 4 posts
    Post hole digger
    Six bags of concrete
    One 10 foot long 2x10 or 2x12 depending on the width of........well, let's not go there.
    One 12 foot long 2x8's
    Three 3 foot long 4x4's
    Circular saw
    Drill and 7/16 inch bit
    Spirit level
    Fifteen 5 inch long galvanized half inch lag screws with washers
    Six bags concrete mix

    Selecting the Site
    Choose a site where the tops of the posts will sit level. You can build one on a slope if you run it parallel to the slope.  You need ten feet of linear space for a ten foot bench. You can make a six foot bench with two posts if you want to go shorter.

    Digging the Holes
    Dig three 2 foot deep post holes 4 feet apart. Dig them wider at the bottom than at the top so the concrete will sit more firmly in the ground.

    Setting the Posts
    Place each of the 3 foot long 4x4's in a hole.  Turn the bench board on edge and set it on top of the posts. Set the spirit level on top of the board.  Adjust the depth of each post till the bench is level by digging the hole deeper or throwing more dirt in the hole.  Once all three posts touch the bottom of the bench edge and the bubble in the spirit level is centered, mix up the concrete and pour it into the hole. Don't make the concrete too wet. Dryer concrete is stronger concrete. Allow to cure overnight before banging on the posts or attaching things.

    Mounting Brackets
    Cut the 2x8 board into two foot lengths.  Cut the boards to the shape shown in the drawing. Drill two holes in the center of each board as shown.  Hole the brackets up against the posts as shown and predrill into the post.  Do this for each bracket.







    Attach the Brackets
    Screw the lag screws and washers into the mounting brackets and posts. The brackets will be on opposite sides of each post running lengthwise to the bench. Tighten the screws till the wood dimples slightly under the washers.







    Positioning the Bench 
    Lay the bench plank on top of the posts and brackets. Position the plank so it overhangs the outside posts evenly (about a foot).  Drill three pilot holes through the plank into the top of the posts.  Screw the lag screws and washers through the top of the plank and into the ends of the posts.




    Finishing the Bench
    If you used pressure treated wood, you don't need to do anything else. If not, you should stain and varnish or paint the bench to protect it from the weather and insects.

    This bench can be placed almost anywhere. You can even carry the parts, precut and drilled, back into the woods and bolt yourself a bench along your favorite hiking trail. You don't have to concrete around the posts, just tamp the dirt around it with a shovel handle. It will hold well enough for a seldom-used rest stop. 

    You can also replace the 2x10 or 2x12 planks with a pair of 2x6's. Just leave a half inch gap between them and screw them to the brackets with galvanized screws. Don't put them closer together than a half inch or the flexing of the boards can pinch your behind between the planks.

    If you cut a 45 degree cut on each corner, it will give the bench a more finished look.

    You can also string a series of planks on posts four feet apart to make pew-like seats. Two boards can share a post, just screw them into the post and brackets with galvanized screws.  If you angle the ends, you can even bend the rows of seats to follow the curve of the terrain.

    It's not hard at all and these benches look really nice when you're done with them.

    Tom

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Free Federal Grant Money

    Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow or Dangerous Myth?

    Matthew Lesko really hacks me off.  First off, he looks like the riddler in those tights.  Second, to listen to him and other grant hucksters tell it the federal government is just jumping up and down about to wet its collective pants waiting for you to ask them for money.  Ads for books, tapes and videos on how to get the “Free Federal Grant Money” are deceptive and cruel. They prey on people who are poor, people who have big dreams that they are trying to make come true and people who have bought into the idea that the federal government is one big Santa Claus and if they just know the right magic incantation, they can get him to “Open Sesame” and all the gold will come pouring out. 

    A federal grant is never free, no matter what Lesko and his ilk may say.  The only reason federal agencies award grants is to pay someone or some organization to do something the agency believes the public wants or needs and is for their collective good.  They do not give grants to help you pay your way out of debt, renovate your bathroom or clear up your acne.  Federal grants pay for research, delivery of human services, public arts projects, economic development, data collection or testing of a new drug or weapons system.  If you get such a grant, you can bet the agency that gave it to you not only wants you to do something specific with it, but also will be looking over your shoulder to make sure you do it the way you said you would and that you don’t misuse or misappropriate the funds.

    That’s how they get people to fill up all those nice federal prisons.

    That said, here’s what you do to get a federal grant.

    Decide What Good Thing You Want to Do

    First you need to figure out what needed thing you want to do that can’t be funded through a bank loan or investors – the way an ordinary business is funded.  The project should be something the community needs but doesn’t have and can’t get without help.  One way to do this is to listen around the community to what people are complaining about.  Not enough baseball fields for Little League?  Maybe you need a park.  Too many teens running the streets and getting into trouble? Maybe you need a youth center or after school program. Listening to the radio, reading the newspaper and watching TV is a good way to recognize recurring themes.  Talk about your idea for fixing the problem with community leaders if you want your grant application to have a chance of success.  Get their input and support for your idea.  Now you’re ready to start work in earnest.

    Conduct A Series Of Stakeholder Meetings

    Stakeholders are people and organizations that have a stake in your cause. If your idea is an after school program for youth, invite parents, teachers, law enforcement and even the kids themselves.  If your community needs improved transportation for people with disabilities, seniors or low-income families, invite city-planning officials, human service agencies, transportation providers and people who will use the services and get ideas from them.  Stakeholder forums help you collect ideas and synthesize them into a plan. Stakeholder meetings also help you get communities behind the plan. You’ll need that later.

    Identify The Lead Agency

    The lead agency is whoever will handle the money, write checks and assume responsibility for the execution of the project and for the many (repeat many) detailed reports the government will ask for. The lead agency should be be someone everybody trusts. If it’s a collaborative project, the partners should agree on the lead agency and that agency should have a record of trustworthy behavior. This is important because the lead agency can make the collaboration work or screw it up royally. If you’ve ever been a junior partner in a collaborative projects, it’s likely you’ve been burned by a lead agency that cut you out or reduced the amount of money you received. Selection of the lead agency is of primary importance to the success of the project.

    Write A Project Plan

    A project plan is pretty much the same as a business plan.  You’ll need a multi-year budget depending on the Request For Proposal.  You’ll need to develop staff lists, qualifications of key project leaders and organizations, certifications, licenses and permits needed to operate. You’ll need to create goals and objectives, strategies and implementation plans. You may even have to create a new organization from scratch if one does not already exist that can handle the project. Write the project plan up in a business plan format.  The project plan answers the proverbial 5 W’s:  Who is doing the project; What the project is; When the project will take place; Where the project will be conducted; Why the project needs to be conducted.  Answer those questions in your project plan and you’ll be ready to write the grant.

    Find Federal Funding

    Visit Grants.gov on the Internet and sign up for their e-mail newsletter. The newsletter is published frequently and lists all new federal RFP’s as they come out.  The announcements include links to downloadable applications and instructions for RFP’s.  When you sign up for the newsletter, you will choose which programs you are interested in, what areas. Think about what you are doing.  You project may be able to receive funding from several agencies.  Suppose you were funding a high school student internship program at a rural wildlife refuge. You might approach the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife or the Department of Labor if they had funding for this type of project.  Request or download a copy of any RFP for which you qualify and study it to make sure you are eligible.

    Fill Out the Application

    Follow the instructions in the RFP closely. If you don’t understand something, call the federal agency’s contact person for help. They love that. Nothing warms the cockles of a bureaucrat’s heart more than to have you sit at their feet, eager to learn from them. Calling for help can keep you on track and help you build rapport with the agency awarding the grant. It may not help you win the grant (the process is pretty strict about the decision being in the hands of impartial reviewers), but it can help make the process easier if you do win the grant.

    Collect Support Data

    Put together all the data, documentation and letters of support from the community that are required by the RFP.  If there is a matching funds requirement (and for federal grants there usually is), then now is the time to raise the matching funds. You need to at least know where the matching funds are coming from and be almost read to submit the matching fund application BEFORE submitting the application for federal funds. The federal funds won’t be available till the matching funds are in place. Get letters of support from politicians and public officials as well as other agencies with whom you will work.

    Complete the Application

    Fill out the application, its appendices and attach the proper documentation and all of the letters of support you have collected. Send the application as soon as you have it completed.  Don’t wait for the last minute. It never fails that you need something else or that something gets delayed.  Plan to be finished early and you’ll be finished on time.

    Be Patient

    Wait for the announcement of who won the grants.  The date is published in the RFP.  Don’t pester the agency for information.  They won’t tell you anything before the scheduled announcement.  All you will do is hack everyone off and only lose friends at the agency.  AND they still won’t tell you anything.

    Success and Failure

    If you win the grant, all you need to do is do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. Do that and it scores you extra points when you reapply for later grants.  If you fail to get the grant this time, don’t despair.  Most grant applicants fail to win the grant the first time out. Don’t just give up.  Contact the representative at the agency and as for copies of the grant reviewer’s comments about your application and figure out what went wrong.  As soon as the grant comes up again next in the year or so, reapply using the information you learned last time.  Don’t quit. Sometimes you have to apply two or three times to win a grant.

    What Not to Do

    The “Free Grant Money” people will often give you “template” letters to write. Do the grant or don’t do it. Shoddy or cookie cutter applications are worse than useless. Do NOT write generic letters to federal agencies asking for money.  They give the agency a bad opinion of your competence to use federal funds effectively. A federal grant will not pay off your credit cards, buy you a house or help you start a business simply because you are a woman, a minority or a person with disabilities.  A federal grant may fund a project from which you draw a salary.  It won’t pay you to write the grant. Most of the time you half to raise half of the money somewhere else. 

    Still federal grants can help you raise a lot of money.  Stick to the grant application.  Follow the instructions in the request for proposal to the letter.  Keep in mind the tips I’ve laid out here and you can create a successful project and grant application. 

    Good luck with that first grant, it’s a doozy! 


    Good Places to Search for Federal Grant Resources.

    Grants.gov
    Federal Register
    Federal Funding Tools and Links
    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)


    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    Tuned Wind Chimes - A Soundtrack for Your Garden

    If you've never had tuned wind chimes, try making your own.  It's a lot of fun.  Here's how.

    Start by cutting a 6 inch round circle out of inch thick board.  Then cut a 3 1/4 inch circle out of the center.  Sand the "O" and the center disk.  You can even route the edges lightly to make it look prettier.

    Now comes the fun part.  Go down to the Home Depot and go to the plumbing section.  Borrow a hammer and go around the store tapping on various kinds of pipe or tubing in various sizes and shapes, especially the metal tubing.  Also, try out tubing in other departments like electrical or home decor.  Find something that makes a beautiful sound when you strike it.

    Get yourself about 8 feet or so of tubing depending on how ambitious you plant to be with your chimes.  Get more if you tune them because you WILL make mistakes. If you use a larger diameter tubing than an inch or so, you may need to make your "O" ring and center disk proportionally larger.

    The most important thing at this point is to cut your tubing the right length. Use a band saw or saber saw with metal cutting blade. The first piece is something of a crap shoot.  Make it about 15 inches or so.  Drill a pair of holes opposite each other about a quarter inch from one end of the tube, then suspend it with fishing line.  Get the heavy 80 pound line if you don't want to replace it a lot.  Mono-filament deteriorates in sun and weather over time.

    Now that you've strung your tube, strike it with a hammer or hard object and make it ring.  Set up a keyboard or other musical instrument next to it and try to find the note that comes closest to that of the tube.  It probably won't match exactly. Pick the note on the keyboard that's just higher than the tube when struck.  Now use your saw to shave off the end a little.  No more than an eight inch.  Restrike the tube and see if you're any closer to the note you want. Keep shaving till it's in tune with the instrument.

    Now you need to pick out either a chord that includes that note or a line of music that includes that note.  I have a chime that, struck sequentially, plays the seven note opening line from the Harry Potter theme. It makes a wonderful sound on a breezy summer day.  If you want to do something like that, pick out the notes and then cut a tube to match each note. Just make sure one of the notes, preferably a low one, matches the tube you've already cut.  You may have to try the tune in several different keys to get the right one.

    The first time you do this, as I said, have some extra tubing on hand because you will mess up.  Start with the low notes first because if you cut them too short, you can always recut for one of the higher notes.  When you are done, try again to cut one to match the low note.  Keep going till each tube matches a note in the tune or the chord you've chosen.

    Now cut pairs of small holes for the monofilament line, 3/4 inch apart, with each pair evenly spaced around the "O" ring. If the tune or chord you chose has four, six, or seven notes, you'll need to figure 1/4, 1/6, or 1/7 of the distance round the ring to set your pairs of holes. String fishing line, through the holes you drilled near the tops of the tubes, then loop them through the pairs of holes in the "O" ring and tie them off.

    Now drill 3 eighth inch holes evenly spaced in the "O" ring.  Tie keeper knots in three foot long pieces of cord, thread them bottom up through the "O" ring and tie them together to a hook about six inches above the "O" ring.  Tie a cord to the hook and drop it down the center of the "O".  Drill a hole in the 3 1/4 inch round disk and thread it onto the cord.  The disk should hang about a third of the way from the bottom of the shortest tube.  Tie a keeper knot and then tie a flat thin piece of wood at the bottom below the tubes.  It can be any shape you want, but light enough for the wind to blow it around and cause the disk to clang off the sides of the tubes and heavy enough to move the clapper disk.

    Now all you need to do is hang it somewhere you can get a breeze and listen to the music.  Minor chords are really nice for that ethereal kind of sound.  Major or major seventh cords make for a cheerier sound.  Piddle around with the placement of the notes to match how the disk tends to swing and you can have the chimes almost play a tune.

    If you would like to do the tube cutting mathematically, there is an in-depth article that tells you all you need to know to figure tube lengths mathematically at Chuck's Chimes.  And boy howdy is Chuck thorough. If you can handle college algebra you should be able to keep up and theoretically you could cut any tune you wanted out of any pipe you'd like and only have to cut once. He also tells you where on the tube to drill the holes to suspend it.  Apparently there are nodes along the length that provide the best tone if you hang the pipes at that point.

    Take your time and have fun with this project.  Keep track of tube types and lengths from successful projects so you can repeat the set.  Soon you'll be making wind chimes that are so beautiful all your family members will want you to make them for Christmas.

    Then, again you may want to tell everyone you got them from a flea market in Kentucky so you don't have to ever go through all that work again.  Depends on whether you enjoy building chimes or not.

    Tom

    If you're interested Chuck's Chimes also has this really great Wind Chime Tubing Length Calculator for tuning to a four note chord.  Very nice.

    Doggie Diapers

    Okay, here's the problem.  My dog's in heat and we decided that we'd let her get at least a year old before we had her spayed.  Recent research indicates that, despite the current "standard" recommendation to have pets spayed at 6 month old, you might want to wait to let your dog mature a little before you neuter him or her.  This lets them get past the puppy stage a bit. There's some evidence that the "puppiness" that makes them rowdy and excitable at that age gets locked in if you neuter them when they are too young.

    So we decided to wait a bit with Daisy. Unfortunately, you have the whole bleeding and discharge during the time the dog is in heat.  So, I looked up to see if there was some sort of doggie diaper thing we could get while she was indoors.  Turns out there was.  They run from $6 to $20 for just one! 

    Well, I found a cheap alternative.  Boys sized underpants!  With a little help from a safety pin, I got myself a nice set of underpants for my hound dog.

    Materials
    1 dog
    3 pair boys boxer/briefs
    1 box of safety pins

    Step 1
    Buy a package of boys medium or large boxer/briefs


    Step 2
    Lay a pair on the floor with the legs open.  The front panel with the pee-pee flap will be toward the back.  The back of the underpants will be underneath the dog.  Daisy doesn't like wearing her fancy pants.  Here she is doing the limp dog routine, hoping I'll give up.  But I am made of sterner stuff and she gives in and cooperates.





    Step 3
    Set the dog's feet into the leg holes.
























    Step 5
    On top of the underpants in the middle of the dog's back and above her tail, overlap the waist band and pull them tight. CAREFULLY, safety pin the folds of the waist band together as shown (see the arrow in the picture).








    Step 6
    Turn the dog loose and say something stupid like, "How does Daddy's girl like her new fancy pants?"  Your dog will duck her head and slink away to nap in the corner, thoroughly embarrassed to be running around in this funny looking rig.







    I'll admit the black and gray pants look better.  I used the white ones so you could see it better in the pictures.  Daisy doesn't mind her fancy pants so much.  She even lifts her legs to let me slip them on and stands still till I'm through.

    Don't you just love dogs.

    Tom

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Removing Dust & Allergens from Your Pillows with a Vacuum

    Check out my new video blog.  This is an experiment with the latest fashion in shaky hand-held camera work. I asked Sheila to film the piece and she's got an essential tremor in her hand, so it turned out like those new avant' garde movies or TV shows with the hand-held (shaky) camera work. Think Battlestar Galactica meets Martha Stewart.  If you or a family member has allergies or asthma, your pillow can be one of the primary culprits for making you sneeze and wheeze.  All kinds of dust gets into your pillows.  If you'd like a nice clean smelling dust-free pillow in just a couple of minutes, here's a really slick and really quick way to do it. - Tom

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Rolling a Yak

    No, I’m not talking about mugging a shaggy Mongolian protein source.  I’m talking about tipping over that far-to-skinny-for-my-ample-behind kayak you bought. Now, because I am, in fact, an expert paddler, I can keep one upright quite easily.  That is, if it remains afloat at all.  I once climbed into a kayak at a small craft boat demonstration at Tyler State Park one time.  Simpson’s Bike and Sail let you try out the kayaks in hopes you’d love them so much you’d buy one of the over-priced little darlin’s.  Unfortunately, I have a rather distorted mental body image. I keep thinking I’m 155 pounds like I was when I was 18.  So I sat myself down in a little rodeo boat, one of those short ones they use for playing in the rapids.  It went straight to the bottom.  I decided to test a larger model.  Turned out I had to solo a kayak meant for two people in order to keep the deck above water.

    Sigh.

    Finding yourself upside down in a kayak can be a disconcerting experience.  Getting yourself back upright is literally a snap (hip-snap that is).  There is so much to fuddle your brain when you flip your yak.  First you're upside down.  Then, the double bladed paddle adds to your confusion.  Finally, the paddle stroke you need to do is upside down from the way you normally paddle.  Now, this guy below shows how it's done. He's in a pool of known depth, so he's not wearing a helmet.  It's better to practice with the helmet to get used to the extra drag.



    The Setup
    As you turn over, tuck your head down low and pull the paddle alongside the cockpit, lengthwise to the hull on the side toward which you are rolling.  Place the opposite side blade forward toward the bow and the near side blade toward the stern.

    Orienting Yourself
    Once you are upside you’ll experience confusion since the world has gone upside down.  Take a second to get your bearings.  To flip back up, you’ll have to push down on the water – what to you, being upside down, will feel all wrong.  You’ll probably need to pause to reorient yourself until the skill becomes second nature to you.  Katrina here is practicing in a pool for photographic purposes, and doesn't have a helmet.  She is shown below practicing in more realistic conditions.  Note the helmet.

    The Reach
    Bring your head up near the water surface on the side you’ll be rolling up on.  Get your head above the forward blade, so that it feels like you are pressing down again when you sweep the forward blade wide and backward. Bring your trailing elbow in close to your body so the trailing blade tips up out of the water and doesn’t drag.

    The Sweep and Snap
    Begin to sweep the blade wide and toward the stern of the boat. As you sweep, pressing downward and backward, snap your hips so your body tilts to the opposite side. This rotates the hull of the boat upward and starts it rolling the right direction  Resist the urge to bring up your head till you complete the hip snap.  Keep pulling the sweep as you snap your hips.

    The Recovery
    As the hull rolls up, press hard on the end of the sweep stroke and let your body be pushed out of the water and back to the vertical position.  The boat will jump forward. Immediately bring the opposite blade down and take a strong stroke to get the boat moving and stabilized.

    Tips
    Practice this a lot.  It should become second nature so that you pop back up almost without thinking about it. There are three other standard ways to do this or you can make up your own way, but this method is the easiest, requires less finesse, balance and physical strength to perform (a natural choice for big awkward klutzes like me then).

    Always wear a helmet when kayaking and especially when practicing this skill.  In the river, it’s even more important because the bottom can be rocky and quite close to your face.  Also, helmets don’t bleed and attract piranha, gators or those big mosquitoes they grow here in East Texas.

    References:

    These links show how to perform the standard roll.


    Eskimo Roll

    Gorp:  Four Elements of The Kayak Roll

    Aquabatics Kayak School: Sweep Roll Tutorial

    Patagonia Kayak School:  Kayak Roll Identifier and Troubleshooter

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    SEQUENCES: Iron Your Own Shirt

    As Patrick McManus once observed, women don't understand about sequences. My wife, for instance, asked me the other day why I had to spend 6 hours cleaning out the garage in order to repair a simple scratch in a coffee table or something.  It's because women don't understand sequences that they ask foolish questions like that.

    You see, before I could repair the table, I had to find the tools I needed to fix the scratch, I needed to find my sandpaper which was in a box buried in a pile of boxes in the corner of the garage where it has been since we moved.  I need tools and solvents, stains, varnishes and other things to do the job.  I need a place to work that's clear and well-ventilated. To be able to do that, I have to clean and organize my stuff before I can even think about fixing the table and who knows where else that whole project will take me.

    So I've decided to do some articles on sequences for some basic tasks we all perform, but we may not always do correctly.  I did an article on making good pancakes for instances. I may do one on how to grow tomatoes or the correct way to polish a floor.

    My first "Sequences" article concerns a skill every young man should learn - ironing a shirt.  Since the advent of permanent press clothing, we've been able to get away with wearing pants out of the dryer, but you can't really look crisp unless you iron your shirt.  Here's the sequence:

    1. Set up the ironing board and iron.  Fill the iron with water.  My Mom used rain water or distilled water. We had hard water and she said it yellowed the collars or something.
    2. Set the temperature for steam and whatever type of material the shirt is made of.
    3. Pick up your shirt and lay the collar flat over the ironing board.  Before you iron, spritz the target area with a little water mist or spray starch. Iron both sides of the collar.
    4. The yoke is the flat panel on the upper pack below the collar.  Lay it over the end of the ironing board so it's very flat and iron it.
    5. Next iron the right front panel of the shirt.
    6. Work your way from button holes down under the arm and around the back, pulling the shirt toward you over the end of the ironing board.
    7. Iron the back and then around to the left front panel of the shirt by the buttons.
    8. Lay the left sleeve flat and iron the front and back.
    9. Lay the right sleeve flat and iron the front and back.
    10. Hang the shirt on a thick plastic hanger till you are ready to wear it. Wire hangers will leave little stretch puckers on the shoulders - not good.
    If you follow the sequence above, you can crank out a half dozen or so shirts in no time at all and crisp shirts make you look sharp.  If you want to keep your shirts sharper longer, spray starch really makes a difference.  

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